Hello and welcome to yet another new feature on my blog. In this category, I’m going to put the spotlight on Austrian movies (new releases not withstanding, since those will be featured in “At the Movies” or the film festival-columns, respectively), starting with the first “Brenner”-adaptation, “Komm, süßer Tod”, which was shown as part of the Viennese open air-cinema-festival “Kino wie noch nie”.
I had seen this first on TV and then a couple of years later on DVD, but it had been a while, so I was already looking forward to watching it again. And what probably surprised me the most is how raw, unpolished and to some extent flat-out amateurish it is. It was released in 2000, but on a technical level, it looks and feels more like a movie from the late 80s or earls 90s. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve seen so many boom mics (I’d recommend making a drinking game out of it, if I wouldn’t be afraid that you’d go ahead and sue me after getting hospitalized for alcohol poisoning halfway through the movie), and somehow, the movie looks incredibly outdated and old-fashioned. Also, as much as I loved the omniscient narrator in Wolf Haas’ Brenner-novels, and thus am inclined to welcome the voice over commentary, they really went a little overboard with it in the first one, trying to save as much of Haas’ prose as possible – to the detriment of the movie.
However, as much as “Komm, süßer Tod” might have disappointed me on a technical level, overall it’s still a very good movie that established one of the best and most successful Austrian film series of all time. One key factor for this definitely are Wolf Haas’ great crime novels that build the basis for them. Another one is casting. There simply is no better actor, Austrian or international, to play Simon Brenner, than comedian and actor Josef Hader. His dry, dark and melancholical sense of humor fits the role like a glove, and he’s also quite good in the more dramatic scenes. It’s not just him, though, the whole movie is perfectly cast, featuring some well-known faces from Austrian movies and TV (a tradition that the following Brenner-movies would very much follow). I also love the murder mystery. We actually get to know the murderer himself right away, Columbo-style, which already sets this apart from similar movies. The fact that we know who killed the couple in the beginning doesn’t mean, however, that we already know the whole story. Why did he do it? Is someone else behind it? With questions like that, the movie will keep you guessing pretty much until the end, thus it really managed to draw me in and grab my attention. Apart from Hader, though, its biggest strength is its extremely dark and macabre (and thus very Austrian/Viennese) sense of humor. There are a lot of funny scenes, and the dialogues especially had me in stitches repeatedly. Finally, even though I prefer all other Brenner-movies to this, there’s a certain roughness and crudity to “Komm, süßer Tod” that the other ones are lacking, and which give this a unique feel and charm. Thus, despite the fact that it’s rather lacking on a technical level and feeling roughly 10 years older than it actually is, I highly recommend this to anyone interested in dark comedies, crime movies and/or Austrian cinema in general.